The selection of paceman Chris Tremlett and Monty Panesar for the upcoming Ashes series in Australia may surprise a few, but it must be viewed as a fair reward for consistent performances at the domestic level by both. Tremlett had a wonderful time with Surrey this season, capturing 48 wickets at just a tad over 20.18. On the other hand, Panesar scalped 52 wickets for Sussex at an impressive average of just over 25. Also, both have achieved success at the international level previously, which would stand them in good stead in such a big series, which England are expected to win for a change. True it can be said that Ajmal Shahzad and Adil Rashid were unfortunate to miss out to the two. However, the decisions seem to be in the best interest of the team.
Tremlett’s inclusion must have been made easier considering the fact that with his height and pace he could trouble the Australian batsman in seaming conditions. Of course, that is only if he gets a chance. The starting spots are already reserved for James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan and Steven Finn. There might have been question marks over Bresnan’s place. However, his all-round prowess means, he retains his place. Also, it would be interesting to see how far the predictions on Finn’s success down under prove to be correct.
Apart from the abovementioned couple of surprises, there were not too many other revelations. The rest of the players pretty much pick themselves. It is good to see Steve Davies retained in the squad as the reserve wicket-keeper. He has done well enough to warrant that spot and could be utilized to give some well-deserved rest to Matt Prior, who has truly come of age lately. Amongst the others, Kevin Pietersen has retained his place despite his wretched form in the last year. The swashbuckling batsman needs to get his bearings right very soon, and what better setting that the Ashes where he announced himself on the big stage with a series-winning hundred during the historic summer of 2005.
Skipper Andrew Strauss also has fond memories of the Ashes, having played a major hand in both of England’s triumphs in the last five years. However, it has to be remembered that both the wins came at home, and that in between they were blanked 5-0 under the raw leadership of Andrew Flintoff. This series is expected to be a lot more closely fought and rightly so since England have a genuinely strong side.
In Strauss, they have a no-nonsense leader, who has handled the team professionally in a crisis situation on more than one occasion, the series against Pakistan being the latest. Then, there are likes of Jonathan Trott and Eoin Morgan, who have come up exceedingly well under pressure in the last year. A lot would be expected of the inspiring duo during this Ashes. Former captain Paul Collingwood has been having a rough time of it with the bat. Even so, one can be assured of his tenacity every time he goes out to bat. And finally, as has been the norm in English cricket in the last year, how Graeme Swann performs will go a long way in determining the result of the Ashes.
All said and done, a fascinating contest is on the cards since Australia are still among the best, if not the best.